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Sangharakshita's Diary 2015

December 2015

Its the middle of November and looking out across the pond the wind is rushing across the great field and rippling the water into peaks and troughs of grey that mirror the leaden skies above. The beech trees are all but bare, while the oaks are only now turning and shedding their mantle.

Over the last shabda month Bhante's health has continued to be robust though unfortunately his energy levels have been upset due to a period of erratic sleep patterns ranging from some full and long nights of sleep with one or two late mornings, right through to nights of almost no sound sleep at all. Of course this has had the effect of Bhante feeling very tired and being unable to see many people over this period, as he simply has not had the capacity to do so.

Those he has been able to see were mainly in the middle part of October, or these last couple of days, so Bhante saw some 8 people during the period between 15th October, to the 14th November.

As mentioned in last months diary Bhante's visit to the Royal Worcester hospital to see his consultant eye specialist resulted in a referral to look at some deterioration in his right eye, however now having seen the new consultant Bhante has been given the first of a series of three Lucentis injections to his left eye at the treatment centre in Kidderminster, which will then be followed up with the other two injections at later intervals and a fourth trip out back to Worcester hospital to see the consultant.

Over the last few days the College of Public Preceptors has begun its international meeting here and although many meetings are going on and Bhante meets who he can, what goes on outside the annexe rarely seems to disturb the quiet, reflective atmosphere within.

Sthanashraddha

November 2015

The second half of September and the early part of October has been blessed with some very fine weather here at Adhisthana. The nights are drawing in and the days are often crisp and fresh, though the sun has shone all the more brightly in the piercing blue skies. Consequently Bhante has been able to get out for his usual walk by the pond with Buddhadasa, and on one or two days has even taken a second walk.

With Paramartha still away for the foreseeable future caring for his mother in New Zealand, Suvajra has been spending the evenings and nights with Bhante in the Annexe. During the evenings while sitting in the conservatory enjoying the fading sunlight on the main field,  Bhante has continued to 'write' reminiscences, usually from long ago and about people he has not written much about, or not written at all. So far there have been another three or four such pieces written since 'A Reverie-cum-Reminiscence in the Form of a Letter to Paramartha'. Of course even Suvajra needs the occasional change of scenery, and so he was away for a week in October to visit his solitary cabin, and Mokshapriya, and see his doctor. While he was away Mahamati stayed over in the Annexe and took on Suvajra's duties.

Bhante has had two trips out from Adhisthana, one very brief trip to his GP for this winter's flu vaccination, and the second for a routine check up with his eye consultant at the hospital in Worcester. This has however revealed a slight deterioration in sight to his right eye and he has a referral to see another specialist in mid/late October.

Other than this, Bhante's health and sleep continues to be, all things considered, quite good. And although he is not always able to meet every one who asks to see him, he does continue to meet with people. So from the 15th of September to the 14th October Bhante has met with some 16 people.

With much metta, Sthanashraddha.

October 2015

A few days into September and it's clear that we have passed the midpoint of the year. Though the days are often gloriously sunny here at Adhisthana, the mornings and evenings are colder now with the one or two overcast days being noticeably chilly, and the wasps have become sluggish and irritable in their hunt for food.

Since the end of July Bhante has been continuing to enjoy regular nights of sleep and rest, with nights of poor sleep becoming more the minority. This has meant that Bhante has not only been able to keep up a fairly healthy amount of correspondence via email and one or two letters, but also has listened to the whole of Shabda letter reports from August.

Of course August has also seen Bhante meeting people mainly for ten or fifteen minutes after his lunch. A wide mixture of order members, Mitras, friends, community members and even our first pilgrim to arrive on foot, having completed some 17 walks starting back in February at the Tooting Public Library. So from the 16th July until the 14th September Bhante has met with some 30 people.

And of course along with the emails and letters quite early on in the month Bhante began to receive birthday cards! Which steadily increased in volume and often length as we approached the 26th. They do now seem to have almost ceased arriving but you never know there may be one or two making their way in late! At present they number 132 all of which Bhante has listened to carefully and one or two quite literally, due to their audio nature!

Messages of well wishing and happy returns have also come attached to donations made towards Bhante’s birthday appeal, these numbered 658 in total and we compiled them into smaller groupings: simple messages wishing Bhante a happy birthday or with thanks or in gratitude, of which there were some 323; messages either in thanks for the Dharma or a wish for it to continue down the ages (also several messages wishing for the success of the Complete Works project) which numbered 145; then there were 83 messages that come from either groups such as centres, teams, chapters, Going for Refuge groups etc and/or individuals outside the UK; there were 50 messages in reference to Bhante having a life changing impact on the author's; 48 noteworthy messages mentioning some Dharma reference or memory in connection with Bhante, or some humorous  event; and finally 9 messages that were devotional prayers in nature.

Of course Adhisthana also hosted its first in-house mixed area order weekend for some 400 of us entitled 'Conscious surrender to the Beautiful', in celebration of Bhante’s birthday the following week. During which Kalyanaprabha launched Bhante’s new book, a Moseley Miscellany. Bhante was very pleased to be able to attend this launch arriving in parallel with a short but powerful rolling summer thunder storm, complete with rumbling skies, monsoon-like rain and rainbows over head. Before settling down to the launch however there was time for Bhante to be garlanded by one of our newest Dharmacharinis attending the weekend, to be presented with a birthday cake while we all sang him a happy birthday, and for Amalavajra to present him with a card informing Bhante that not only had the order and movement raised the sum needed for his birthday wish of publishing the Complete Works but that we had exceeded that by at least £20,000.

Following the end of the order weekend, things have been very quiet at Adhisthana, though Bhante has made three more little excursions from the Urgyen Annexe. Once on his birthday to see the Nine Decades Exhibition for himself, having Saddhanandi and Danasamudra to show him around in sequence. And just the other day Suvajra drove myself and Bhante down past the women's community into the lower field and down to the far end of the Swales (wetlands area), then back up and into the farmyard and through our big barn with the car. Bhante remarking that this was the first time he had been able to visit the wetlands but also to have completed a circuit of the property since he arrived. And then also during the weekend retreat of order members ordained by Bhante, he walked over after lunch for a group photo with them all.

Unfortunately the celebratory mood has not been complete, as Bhante’s close friend Paramartha was unable to attend either the order weekend or Bhante’s actual birthday, as his mother being seriously ill he had to leave for New Zealand just a few days before. Which has understandably cast something of a shadow over an otherwise sunny event.

Bhante has also been spending some of his afternoons and evenings 'writing' with the help of Suvajra, and has recently completed his most up to date piece of writing not to mention the longest given its some 4,000+ words are compared to often brief emails and letters. The title is 'A Reverie-cum-Reminiscence in the Form of a Letter to Paramartha'.

So this concludes Bhante's diary for this period, and also my first month or so of time as Bhante's secretary. I hope to be able to write for you many more. 

Sthanashraddha.

July 2015

Several of Bhante’s correspondents this month have commented appreciatively and with pleasure on seeing Bhante looking so well in photos taken in Glastonbury in May (one with Paramartha), which have been published widely on the ubiquitous Facebook and now can be found on Bhante’s 90th Birthday website page. Bhante has not had any more outings, but he has enjoyed the mainly hot weather we’ve had in England over the last few weeks. He says it suits him well and on these hot days, as well as others, he has usually ventured into the Adhisthana grounds for a walk and to sit on a garden bench, most often with Buddhadasa.

Ashvajit completed two years as Bhante’s secretary at the end of May. Since then, first Vidyaruci, and then myself, Mahamati, have been filling in as secretary until Sthanashraddha, the new permanent secretary for Bhante, starts at the beginning of August.

After reading to Bhante any correspondence and taking dictation of any replies, on most mornings Bhante has asked me to help him go through folders and boxes from his extensive archive which has been interesting for both of us. Sometimes Bhante has decided that the papers in the boxes can be disposed of, being of no historical interest. However, most of it is very valuable and is being catalogued and either kept as part of Bhante’s personal archive in the Urgyen Annexe or sent across the way to Danasamudra in the Sangharakshita Library. A number of the boxes contain the original manuscripts for many of Bhante's books, articles, and edited seminars (all either hand-written or typed by Bhante), which will be important for Kalyanaprabha and Vidyadevi in editorial work for the publication of Bhante’s definitive Complete Works. The boxes also include correspondence from different periods of Bhante’s life, his diaries, and important documents recording the early history of the FWBO.

In the last month, Bhante completed a series of audio recordings concerning the nine decades of his life, focusing on three objects of significance from each decade. All these objects will be on display in the Sangharakshita Library as part of Bhante’s ninetieth birthday celebration in August, and will be presented along with the voice recordings, and, for those who cannot visit Adhisthana, pictures of the objects together with the relevant recordings will be available on the Buddhist Centre Online.

Also in the last month Bhante finished listening to The Rainbow by D.H.Lawrence. Bhante was very pleased to renew his acquaintance with this classic which he first read when he was sixteen or seventeen years old. He says that he enjoyed some parts of it more than others. In the book, Lawrence describes some extreme psychological and emotional states that some of his characters go through. Bhante discussed this and other aspects of the book with Paramartha on quite a few evenings.

In last month’s Sangharakshita Diary, Vidyaruchi wrote of the visit of Sudha Shah, an Indian writer and author of The King in Exile: the Fall of the Royal Family of Burma, with whom Bhante has conducted a lengthy correspondence. As a parting gift Bhante gave Sudha an autographed copy of his book Dear Dinoo: Letters to a Friend, (Ibis Publications 2011) which contains a twenty year correspondence starting from their first acquaintance in 1955. On dipping into the book Sudha discovered, no doubt to her great surprise, that the apartment block in Bombay where Dinoo Dubash lived was the same block where her grand-father, with whom she often stayed, also had an apartment. Sudha and Bhante agreed that it was a “bizarre coincidence” that Bhante’s ‘Dear Dinoo’ should be the ‘Auntie Dinoo’ of Sudha’s childhood recollections.

As I write, the five month women’s Dharma Training Course here at Adhisthana has just come to an end. Over the last couple of weeks or so Bhante saw one by one all the women from the course. Having seen each of them on their arrival he wanted to see each of them again before they left. Bhante had the impression that they had all had a really wonderful time. The list of others who have visited Bhante this month follows.

Mahamati 15.7.2015

The following is a list of the people whom Bhante has seen since 15th June: Viryakirti, Jeronimo Schober, Chris Devlin, Dayavandana, Jo Shaw, Aryabandhu, Satyalila, Liz Kiff, Jaci Smith, Christiane Meckseper, Angela Rohini, Kate German, Kamalashila, Vajragupta, Kate Arrowsmith, Sally Simons, Holly Lucas, Shraddhavajri, Denny Salgado, Steph Delaney, Bruno Mendoza, Abhaya, Ananda, Saddhanandi, Devamitra

June 2015

This is Vidyaruchi, back in my old role as Bhante’s secretary, though just for a short while. Ashvajit has handed on the reins and will soon be retiring to a little cottage in Wales to live a more solitary and reflective life, and meanwhile Sthanasraddha, who will be Bhante’s next permanent secretary, will not be able to assume the post until August.

The most significant news of the last month is Bhante’s holiday to Somerset, his first excursion since moving to Adhisthana more than two years ago, and a sign of the extent to which his health is better now than even quite recently. Bhante stayed with Paramartha in a spacious bungalow, whence they made excursions to Burnham-on-Sea, Cheddar Gorge, which Bhante had not seen before, and Glastonbury, including seeing the Tor, the site of his long visionary poem, written in 1969.

Back at Adhisthana, Bhante continues as usual, attending to correspondence in the mornings, and seeing people in the afternoons when he has the energy. Among his visitors, of particular interest is Sudha Shah, an Indian writer, and the author of The Last King of Burma, with whom Bhante has conducted a lengthy correspondence. Sudha is writing a book about the annexation of Sikkim, from the point of view of the stories of 3 women who were involved: Hope Cook, who married the last Maharaja of Sikkim; Princess Kukula, the Maharaja’s sister; and the Kazini, the wife of L.D. Kazi, the Maharaja’s principal political opponent. Bhante knew all of these women, and all are mentioned in his memoirs. During their meeting, Sudha gave Bhante an account of her interview with Hope Cook, the only one of the three women who is still alive.

The following is a list of the people whom Bhante has seen since 15th May: Jyotipakshini, Parami, Bodhaniya, Bettye Praitt, Donald Woolford, Dhammadinna, Saddhaloka, Dhammarati, Vidyadevi, Danasamudra, Wayne Bedford, Karunabandhu, Sudha Shah, Vidyadevi, Vidyadharini, Lizzie Guinness, Padmavyuha.

May 2015

Here at Adhisthana, Spring has truly begun. The cuckoo has been heard not just once but many times, little brilliantly-coloured wild flowers are to be seen everywhere, and Sanghadeva’s constant gardening is providing vivid splashes of colour at strategic points on the campus. The trees are dressed in a myriad greens, and on the warmer days Bhante has been able to walk up and down beside the pond and even to sit in the sun. He has been sleeping quite well, though with the occasional not-so-good night. This means that, on the whole, he has had sufficient energy to attend to his emails and letters, though not always to respond at the length he would have liked, and to receive quite a number of visitors. He has also listened attentively to Shabda, and enjoyed various talking books. His appetite is good, as I have witnessed regularly at lunch time, and he has been taking his regular exercise walking up and down the corridor of the Urgyen annexe several times a day. He has been studying the Sandhinirmochana Sutra with Paramartha in the conservatory in the evenings, and after supper, Suvajra tells me, has occasionally been quite talkative.

This will be the last Sangharakshita Diary written by me since I am standing down as Bhante’s secretary at the end of this month. Mahamati will be standing in until a new man is able to take up the post. See my reporting-in for more about this.

Here is my list of people, apart from his carers, whom Bhante has seen this month:

Angela (Melbourne friend of Chittaprabha), Chandradasa, Dennie, Elena, Karunamaya, Kate Clarke, Lizzie, Maitreyi, Maria, Mokshajyoti, Punyamala, Ratnaguna, Sobhanandi, Sona, Viriyavasin.

With much metta, Ashvajit

April 2015 - part 2

Here at Adhisthana there is every sign of spring: retreatants sunning themselves on benches or on the grass, flowers blooming, trees leafing, birds singing, and by at least one calculation, 31 ducklings scuttling over the surface of the ponds. Until the last few days, the weather has been too cool for Bhante to venture out except on one occasion to visit the barber in the nearby village of Bosbury. However, the sun is now perceptibly warmer, and he has taken several strolls alongside the pond in the company of Buddhadasa, and even enjoyed the sun while seated on his usual bench.

Bhante's health is much as usual - quite good - and despite the occasional night of bad sleep, he is reasonably well-rested most nights. This means he has had sufficient energy to attend to his correspondence, listen to Shabda, pay close attention to literary matters, listen to talking books and to the BBC news, and to see someone every other day or so, sometimes for up to half an hour.

Bhante is currently preparing for his sixth recording session with Saddhanandi during which he will talk about three objects which were of particular significance during his 50th to 60th years.

Here is my list of people, apart from his carers, whom Bhante has been able to see during the past month:

Amoghasiddhi, Anya, Aryavachin, Atapini, Dharmabandhu, Katerin Felix-Gregory, Khemasiri, Lokamitra, Lucy Norris, Maitriveer Nagarjuna, Manjuvajra, Megha, Padmadhara, Paolo, Prajnaketu, Prajnasahaya, Saddhaloka,Sravaniya, Subhuti, Ujumani, Vassika, Vidyaruci, Yashosagar, Zoe.

With much metta, Ashvajit

April 2015 - part 1

A late winter chill lingers here in South West England, but the sun is getting progressively brighter and warmer, and leaves and buds are preparing to burst forth. The temperature in Bhante’s sun lounge at Adhisthana has been quite high during some of the brighter days, and the Bodhi tree there has been putting out quite a spray of heart shaped leaves. The rather chilly and damp weather outside, however, has meant that Bhante has not ventured out of the Urgyen Annexe even once during this past month, but he hopes to be able to get out as soon as he feels the warmth of Spring. His health has been quite good and he continues to get reasonably good sleep most nights. This means that he has had sufficient energy to attend, as usual, to correspondence, listen to Shabda, pay attention to literary matters, listen to talking books, and to see someone every other day or so, sometimes for up to half an hour.

Bhante is currently preparing for his third recording session with Saddhanandi during which he will talk about objects of significance during the third decade of his life.

Last month the Sangharakshita Diary listed a number of books of Bhante’s that had been translated into other languages and published in recent months. That list was not intended to be exhaustive, and there was one mistake. It was Who is the Buddha? that had been translated into Turkish, and not What is the Dharma? Human Enlightenment is currently being translated into Turkish and may be published later this year. The main point that was being made, of course, was the importance of studying the Dharma in one’s own language, even in one’s own dialect, and by implication, the need for many more translations – and translators!

Here is my list of people, apart from his carers, who have seen Bhante during the past month:

Vajragupta, Dhammarati, Parami, Lokeshvara, Vajranatha, Vajragupta (Dharmachari), Dharmavajri, Amitasuri, Dassini, Holly, Kate and Steff (three of the women Dharma trainees at Adhisthana), Bodhiketu, Shraddhavajri, Vidyadharini, Sanghadevi, Brian Lilley, Vidyaruci.

With much metta, Ashvajit

March 2015

After a relatively mild winter here, the appearance of snowdrops and frost-free, misty mornings are heralding the return of spring. Looking back on the past month in the Urgyen Annexe, Bhante's health has been quite good and he has been getting reasonably good sleep most nights. This has meant that he has had sufficient energy to attend to correspondence, listen to Shabda, attend to literary matters, and see someone practically every day, sometimes for up to half an hour.

He has made a start with Saddhanandi on a series of voice recordings concerning the nine present decades of Bhante’s life, focusing on three objects of significance from each decade. A recording of Saddhanandi interviewing Bhante about his first decade has been completed, and he hopes to complete the remainder soon. People will in due course be able to hear these recordings in the Library, and see the objects themselves, which will be on display.

A number of translations of Bhante’s books into other languages have been published during the past month. Into Hungarian and into Turkish: What is the Dharma. Into Hindi: Ambedkar and Buddhism, and into French: The Ten Pillars of Buddhism. This reminds us, of course, of the importance of studying the Dharma in one’s own language.

Bhante has also been finding time to help Kalyanaprabha bring out a book called A Moseley Miscellany, on which she is working in addition to her editorial work on the Complete Works, on which she started at the beginning of February.

Here is the list of people, apart from his carers, who have seen Bhante during the past month, more or less in the order in which he saw them:

Suryaketu, Rijupatha, Shraddhadharini, Pedi (a German woman Mitra); Robert, Chris, Will, Robin, Francis, Rob, Roberto, Joe, David and Ewan (the men who have been attending the 5 month Dharma course here at Adhisthana), Vidyaruci, Gunabhadri, Saddhanandi, Padmakumara, Silajala, Amitajyoti, Danasamudra, Sanghadaka, Rocani, Sthana- shraddha, Rijumati, Dharmapriya, Saraha, Nagapriya, Ratnaprabha, and Jinapalita.

With much metta, Ashvajit

February 2015

Due to the absence of a January Shabda, two months have gone by since this Diary appeared. During this time, Bhante has visited the Royal Worcester Hospital twice, the first visit being for a consultation with the cardiologist, who said he did not feel he needed to see Bhante again. The second one was for an Echocardiogram to be taken, which apparently the cardiologist had requested.

Bhante's sleep pattern is now fairly regular, though he still has the occasional night of late or interrupted sleep. Though much, as usual, has been going on at Adhisthana, with more than a hundred and fifty people attending the retreat from the LBC, as well as other quite large events taking place these last two months, hardly any sound penetrates the Urgyen Annexe, which remains very quiet and peaceful. I have been reading his emails and letters to Bhante and describing to him the copious greeting cards and card-letters he has received recently. He has been responding with his usual meticulous attention to detail to those needing a reply. Shabda, articles of interest from other Buddhist magazines, as well as literary matters have as usual also been receiving Bhante's attention.

Bhante's health during this period has been good on the whole though for the two weeks just passed he has been afflicted with a sore throat and conjunctivitis; for the latter he was prescribed special eye drops. These unwelcome guests have both departed during the past few days, and after a fortnight's lapse extending over the Christmas period and into the New Year, Bhante has once again started seeing people other than his carers.

The chief event at Adhisthana to report this time is the official opening of the Sangharakshita Library, or simply 'the Library', for short, which took place on Sunday 11th of January with more than seventy guests attending. Bhante was unfortunately not well enough to be present, though he was very much there in spirit, peeping out from amongst the books. Thanks are due particularly to Vidyadevi, without whose ‘push’ the event might have taken rather longer to happen than it did. She gave an absorbing talk on the significance of the event, recollecting Nalanda and also reminding us that the Library represented just one of the four lineages that Adhisthana embodies. Thanks also to her little team of helpers who dusted and set out the books with such good humour, and of course to those who got the actual building ship-shape, particularly Ratnadharini, Ajjavin and Yashodeva. It was good to see Ananda and Shantavira in the audience, and to see on display - probably for the first time for many Order Members - the thangkas depicting the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava, purchased in Kalimpong by Bhante at the only period of his life when he is known to have declared that he wished he had more money. Vidyadevi also took the opportunity to launch the latest of Bhante's books in the Ibis series called Metaphors magic and mystery. Participants in the Opening were invited to sign the Visitors Book, after which tea and delicious cake, which quickly disappeared, was served in the dining room.

Here below is the list of people (apart from his carers) who have met Bhante in the Urgyen Annexe these last two months:

Amalavajra, Ashokashri, Dan, Devagupta, Dhammarati, Indrabodhi, Ivan Trujillo (a guest of Suvajra’s), Jenya (our first Russian Mitra), Jeremy, Jnanavacha, Joe, Karunamati, Kalyanamati, Lilavati, Mahasiddhi (who saw Bhante in November but was inadvertently omitted at that time), Maitreyabandhu, Maitripala, Maitriveer Nagarjun, Rob, Rupachitta, Sanghamati, Srimala, Sthirananda and Vidyaruci.

With much metta, Ashvajit


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